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The Importance of the Preamble - “We the People” Are Sovereign

What does it mean for “We the People” to be sovereign? How does this concept make the US Constitution unique? Professor Steven Calabresi explains that the notion of popular sovereignty was new and unusual in 1787. Under the Articles of Confederation, the states were sovereign. Under the Constitution, the federal government derives its authority and power directly from the people of the United States. https://youtube.com/watch?v=vP5knN0eVz0


The preamble to the US Constitution is significant because it begins with the words, "We the people. . .” And it says, "We the people do ordain and establish this constitution ... " And by doing that, the Constitution makes it clear that sovereignty under the Constitution rests with, "We the people of the United States," who can only amend the Constitution in a very special, and complicated way, which is set out in article V, providing for constitutional amendments. The notion of popular sovereignty expressed in a preamble was revolutionary in 1787. There had been a prior document that governed the 13 colonies as loose treaty organization, and the preamble of that document read, "The states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut ... " et cetera, et cetera, "Do hereby ordain and establish these Articles of Confederation." Under the Articles of Confederation the preamble made it clear that each of the 13 states were separate sovereigns, and that the constitution was established by the 13 states. The American constitution departs deliberately from that, and it says that, "We the people of the United States are sovereign. And so, the power of the national government flows directly from the American people to the Constitution, and the parts of the government that the Constitution sets up. The popular pre-sovereignty of the Preamble is tremendously important, not only because it rejects the compact of states' idea of the Articles of Confederation, but it also rejects the mixed regime of the British constitution and places sovereignty in we, the people of the United States, who can only act to amend the Constitution by two-thirds of both Houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states, and ordinary acts of Congress signed by the President are not acts of the sovereign people, so the Supreme Court or the lower federal courts or even the state courts can set them aside if they're unconstitutional.

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